My Reading Process: Organizing My Reading Life

Market Research

By day I am an elementary school librarian and in the wee hours of the morning, I work on my children’s writing. Luckily these two fields feed each other in many ways. I often find that market research helps me in both careers. I write for the age group that I teach.

Both librarians and children’s book writers ask me how I keep track of what I read, how do I know what to read, and then how do I keep it organized in a way that I can refer to it later.

I’m going to walk you through my process that has taken me years to figure out what will really work for me. You may have a totally different process. This is a sneak peek into mine.


I have a separate email that I use for subscribing to blogs, email newsletters, and store coupons. You know when you go to a store or when you order online and they ask you for an email address? I don’t give them my main email address. I use one email address for personal correspondence and queries and another email address for the subscription stuff. This insures that my personal stuff doesn’t get buried in the spam. It also allows me to only check the subscription email when I’m ready to.

How do I know about new books coming out?


The blogs I’m listing are only ones I follow for finding out what new books are coming out. I follow a lot of other bloggers for writing advice and business related information. This list is probably not all inclusive, but when I listed the ones I read this week, and they are the ones that I typically read in a given week.

These blogs have lots of great book lists, but I can’t figure out how to follow by email. (If you figure out the email thing, let me know. I’d love to have these come into my inbox on a regular basis). However, I do like to read these:


Follow your favorite authors and illustrators. Are there people who you consistently read? Whose work you always admire? Follow all of them on Amazon.  Amazon sends me emails when their forthcoming books go up on Amazon.


In addition to the ones listed below, I also sign up for publishers newsletters and author newsletters. However, the ones listed below are the ones where I get the majority of my reading lists.

Your local indie bookstore newsletters are also really important. My local bookstores One More Page Books, Hooray For Books, and Politics & Prose do a ton of children’s events. They also send out great newsletters full of good reading suggestions. Sign up for your indie bookstores newsletters. Even when I lived a few hours away, I still signed up for indie newsletters because they give such good reading suggestions.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

I follow authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, and so many more. When people put up pictures of their books, I go look them up.

Print Resources

I still dearly love getting print magazines in the mail. I have subscriptions to these and I dog ear the pages, rip out pages, and make my bigger lists from reading these magazines. I typically do this every few months, not weekly like I do with email.

Planning Ahead for Reading

Many times when I read about a book, it hasn’t come out yet. I had to develop a system that allowed me to write down the title and come back to it at its publication date.

Bullet Journal

I know a lot of people use Good Reads or Wish Lists on Amazon. After a lot of trial and error, I use my bullet journal. At the beginning the year, when I set up the front pages for my bullet journal, I set up 13 pages for writing down when books are coming out. I use one page per month. There are 13 pages because September gets two pages. A lot of books come out in September. As I find out about books in blog posts or newsletters, I write them down on the correct month of release. Sometimes, it’s unclear from the blog post of their pub date, so I look it up on Amazon.

Each month, I reserve books at my local public library. Of course they don’t have everything I want to read, but by the end of the month or the beginning of the next month, I’m able to get most of what I want to read. I check it off as I place it on hold. If it isn’t checked off, my local library doesn’t have it yet.

Keeping Track of Reading

As I read books, I keep track of them in my bullet journal. I have one spread that is for Middle Grade, YA, Craft Books, Nonfiction, Adult Fiction. I might take a few notes about them, but usually I just write down the title.

For picture books, I take much more copious notes. I jot down the title, the author, the publisher and year it was published. I take notes on the content or what I liked (or didn’t like) about it. Then I have a column for whether I’m going to buy it for my library or not. This extensive reference helps me when I go to order books for my library. It also helps me tremendously with comp title research for my picture books.


I love doing things electronically, and I have lots of excel spreadsheets at school for different lists teachers frequently request. However, for my at-home personal reading, this has worked well. Because I index my bullet journals, things aren’t too difficult to find. If I find books that would make good comp titles for a specific book I’m writing, I move them over to an electronic pitch sheet I keep on each book.


How about you? How do you keep track of your reading? What blogs do you follow that I’ve missed? Leave a comment to let me know.

Organize Your Writing Space

After a very long hiatus, I am back to blogging. I blog occasionally with a group of writers called the GROG. When Sherri Jones Rivers, a fellow grogger, asked me to give her some ideas for organizing her writing space, I gave her a tour of my space. Click here to find out how I organize my office.

Writing Hacker Tip #2: Double Duty Reading

I love doing things efficiently, and I’m always looking for new ways to do more work in less time or at least do double duty with one task. I’m sharing some of my crazy writing hacker tips, and I hope you will share some with me too.

Double Duty Reading (a.k.a. Killing Two Birds With One Stone)

One of the things I love about being a children’s writer is that it’s required to read children’s books. Same goes for being an elementary school teacher. And a parent. I’m lucky enough to be all three. So it’s no wonder I pretty much ONLY read children’s books. An occasional adult novel will sneak it, but it has to come highly recommended.

Last week I talked about market research and reading professional magazines and how I keep up with that. But there is another side to market research—knowing the market and what’s being published.

Our latest library stack

Our latest library stack

So, I try to expose my kids at home and my students at school to the latest and greatest children’s books. I try to read books so I can recommend them to my students. But all of this day job work and parenting work is also doing something else—feeding my writing work.

Have no time for market research? Read the books to your kids that you want to study yourself. Lately, my son’s bedtime stories have been interesting point of view picture books and concrete poetry picture books. He’s pretty happy and I’m learning something about craft.


Writing Hacker Tip #1: Researching the Market

I’m a big fan of learning tips for making jobs easier. I like reading through cool tips on LifeHacker or this packing post by Michael Hyatt. I’m a “behind the scenes” junkie. I want to know what works for people and why. While I may not do things exactly the same way, I often find that I learn something I can use. So I’m going to share a few of my own writing hacker tips, and I hope  you’ll share some with me.

Researching the Market

I love getting magazines about writing. I subscribe to many newsletter and magazines. The problem is: when to catch up on reading them and mine them for their great information?

I’m busy with my full-time job, kids, and actually writing. When do I have time to read craft magazines?

Take Your Research on the Road

I’m really not a Thirty-One consultant, but I find this product works well for me. I also have seen metal and plastic products similar to this at Staples (or any other office supply store).


Research on the go

Research on the go

As I get newsletters and magazines, I print them (if I get them digitally) or put my latest copies in this mobile file organizer. It fits in my car or in my trunk. It hasn’t turned over—yet. If I have a few minutes before yoga class starts, or I’m waiting for a kid to get out of practice or activities, I read an article or two. If it’s something I want to keep, I mark it or write in the margins. I tear it out of the magazine and stick it in a file folder in the organizer.

I find it helpful if my notes to myself give me a *hint* as to why I marked it. Sometimes it’s several weeks before I process them (more on this in a minute). For example, I read about a publisher that I thought would be perfect for my friend, Bekah. So I wrote in the margin: “Bekah.” When I went through the file, I knew I needed to e-mail Bekah about the publisher. If it’s an editor or agent that mentions something about a particular topic they want to see, I write the title of my pertinent manuscript in the margin, so I can submit it after doing some more research. It saves me from staring at it and looking at it wondering why I saved it.

I’m also not too worried if I rip apart my magazines. I’ve always torn out what I wanted to keep and recycled the rest. If you like to keep your magazines together, then you can use sticky notes for this part.


Processing the Notes

Every few weeks, or once a month, I take the folder of “keepers” out of my car. Then I go through each one. Often, it’s a magazine, publisher, or an agent I want to research. Sometimes it’s a contest I want to enter. I take the time to go through each one and put it on a to-do list, write a deadline on the calendar, enter publisher or agent information on a spreadsheet, or send an e-mail to a friend.

Each task takes a short amount of time. I spend my big chunks of time writing. I spend the little chunks of time working on things like researching the market.


How do YOU fit in market research? Do you have  cool tip about your process? Leave me a comment. I love “behind the scenes” information.